Three years after the death of a 38-year-old patient of schizophrenia (a disease that affects the brain) at the Institute of Mental Health, Amritsar, due to poisoning, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) has recommended to the Punjab government to pay `2 lakh to the kin of the deceased.
Bachan Singh (38) had been admitted to the Amritsar hospital on July 16, 2000, and had died in December 2012, of poisoning.
Holding the government authorities negligent, the PSHRC said, "Authorities could not substantiate their stand, particularly for the fact, that the same food was consumed by other inmates as well. But only the deceased died due to poison and none of the other inmates suffered from any problem whatsoever….. The stand of the authorities cannot be accepted; we cannot ignore the fact that Bachan died in the custody. How the poison reached him is a mystery?"
"On the principles of res ipse loquitor, negligence on the part of the government authorities appears to stand established," the commission said adding…..signal qua a custodial death to be sent by the Commission must be clear and loud lest no public servant in future may take into his head that he can violate human rights of a citizen with impunity and that there is no institution to scrutinise his actions."
Res ipse loquitor, is a Latin phrase meaning that 'the thing speaks for itself,' and is a doctrine that infers negligence from the very nature of an accident or injury, in the absence of direct evidence on how any of the defendant behaved.
The compensation amount is to be paid to Bachan's heirs by the government within two months and report of action taken is to be submitted before the commission on October 7.
Though no individual has been indicted by the PSHRC in the case, however commission has granted the state government liberty to "recover this amount from the erring officials of the state".
On December 3, 2012, at 1 pm Singh took his lunch and went to his bed for taking rest. It was only at 3:50 pm that the warder on duty noticed that the patient (Bachan) was not responding to any commands and was found dead. Poisoning was cited as the cause of death in chemical analysis.
The Institute of Mental Health, Amritsar, director had sought dropping proceedings against the government saying that the opinion of the medical board regarding the cause of death of patient Bachan Singh as 'poisoning' seemed to be factually wrong as it was not based on sound, existing medical knowledge.
Piece of advice
The commission has advised the state authorities to "consider for special training to the police/jail/other authorities to deal with the accused/convict/inmates and their mindset has to be changed to the extent that they must consider such persons as human being and treat them with affection. Efforts should be made to improve the conditions of jails/other institutions."